WA aerospace and wood sectors up for major infusions of federal cash

From left: Ben Clark, senior vice president of engineering at Corvallis-based Inpria, tells state Sen. Janeen Sollman, D-Hillsboro, Rep. Janelle Bynum, D-Clackamas, and Sen. Sara Gelser Blouin, D-Corvallis, that his company is developing materials for chips that will be in smartphones three years from now. (Photo courtesy Julia Shumway/Oregon Capital Chronicle via the Washington State Standard)

Washington and Oregon could receive tens of millions of dollars from the federal government for aerospace materials, semiconductors and engineered wood after the Biden administration announced Monday that the two states will be home to three of 31 new technology hubs.

Nationwide, the hubs will span 32 states and Puerto Rico. They’re meant to spur innovation and create jobs, particularly high-paying jobs outside of existing tech centers like San Francisco and Seattle.

“We’re doing this from coast to coast and in the heartland, in red states and blue states, small towns, cities of all sizes,” President Joe Biden said during a speech Monday. “All this is part of my strategy to invest in America and invest in Americans. It’s working.”

Washington will be part of two regional hubs, one with Idaho for aerospace materials manufacturing and one with Oregon focused on new types of wood products.

Gonzaga University will lead the American Aerospace Materials Manufacturing Center, which will be based in Spokane and help develop new lightweight aircraft parts.

“Not only will the hub provide good paying jobs and help maintain Washington’s global aerospace leadership, it will also lead us further towards our climate and sustainability goals,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement.

Washington will also join Oregon as part of the Pacific Northwest Mass Timber Tech Hub, run by Oregon State University.

The university is also the lead agency of the Corvallis Microfluidics Tech Hub. The announcement follows the administration naming Oregon and Washington a “Clean Hydrogen Hub” earlier this month, a designation that means the states will receive roughly $1 billion to develop low-emissions hydrogen and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

Monday’s announcement doesn’t include funding – instead, it means the 31 hubs across the country  will be able to compete for $500 million in federal grants through the CHIPS and Science Act. Individual hubs could receive up to $75 million next year.

Washington’s aerospace hub will repurpose the former Triumph Composite Systems manufacturing plant in Spokane, according to the Washington State Department of Commerce. It will house research, workforce training and production facilities that will be supported by workforce development training centers across the region.

The Corvallis-based microfluidics hub is a positive sign for Oregon, where state lawmakers this year pledged about $500 million in grants, loans and tax credits to grow the semiconductor industry. Roughly 15% of the nation’s semiconductor workforce works in Oregon.

“Today’s tech hub announcements are an exciting marker of progress in Oregon’s work to boost our technological industry with the goal of creating more jobs and finding innovative ways to strengthen our economy,” Gov. Tina Kotek said in a statement. “Thanks to the partnership and support of the Biden Administration and our congressional delegation, these awards will propel Oregon to meet our prosperity goals.”

The Corvallis hub will “establish global leadership in the development, scaling and commercialization of microfluidics technology for use in semiconductor and electronic cooling,” according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Microfluidics can also be used in bioscience, such as testing for diseases.

Developing and producing semiconductor chips and their components in the U.S. will reduce risks associated with supply chains, something experienced in the COVID pandemic when new cars sat unusable for months because chip factories in Asia weren’t operating.

Along with Oregon State University, Corvallis is home to an HP campus with about 2,500 employees. The university’s Advanced Technology and Manufacturing Institute, in a building at the HP campus, houses research groups and small companies, many of which contribute to manufacturing semiconductors.

Separately, Intel on Monday announced that it plans to expand its chip manufacturing facility in Hillsboro, contingent on winning a portion of the $52 billion semiconductor funding in the CHIPS Act. Gov. Tina Kotek told lawmakers in August that she planned to approve $90 million in state funding toward the Intel expansion.

Mass timber

The second Oregon-based tech hub will center around manufacturing and design of mass timber, a relatively new wood product that consists of many layers of woods stuck together. It can be as strong as concrete or steel while emitting far less carbon.

A notable use of mass timber, which Biden commented on during a visit last year, is the new roof on the main Portland International Airport terminal. The 9-acre timber roof is almost entirely sourced from Douglas firs from Oregon and Washington.

The new tech hub is intended to make mass timber a viable and sustainable construction alternative and create jobs throughout Oregon and Washington. Along with reducing building emissions, the hub aims to decrease high housing costs.

The Biden administration designated two other tech hubs involving Idaho and Montana.

The Intermountain-West Nuclear Energy Tech Hub in Idaho and Wyoming will develop nuclear reactors, and the Headwaters Hub in Montana will focus on developing technology to mitigate natural disasters and manage critical resources.

Oregon Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oregon Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Lynne Terry for questions: info@oregoncapitalchronicle.com. Follow Oregon Capital Chronicle on Facebook and Twitter.

by Julia Shumway, Washington State Standard

Washington State Standard is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Washington State Standard maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Bill Lucia for questions: info@washingtonstatestandard.com. Follow Washington State Standard on Facebook and Twitter.

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